Mobilizing Diverse Stakeholders to Remove Derelict Fishing Gear from Beaches & Bay

Boat full of marine debris.
Debris collected during the Massachusetts COASTSWEEP in September 2018 being hauled to shore by boat. (Photo Credit: Center for Coastal Studies)

The Center for Coastal Studies, located in Provincetown, Massachusetts, will mobilize volunteers to identify, document, and properly dispose of derelict fishing gear from Cape Cod Bay and the Cape Cod National Seashore.

Type of Project: Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant

Region: Northeast

Project Dates: August 2018 - January 2020

Who is involved?
With the support of a NOAA MDP Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant, the Center for Coastal Studies, located in Provincetown, Massachusetts, will mobilize volunteers to identify, document, and properly dispose of derelict fishing gear from Cape Cod Bay and the Cape Cod National Seashore. Volunteers will include commercial and recreational fishers, middle school students, the Environmental Police, private and municipal solid waste disposal providers, surfers, and other coastal interest groups.

What is the project and why is it important?
The New England Lobster fishery uses fixed gear made of vinyl-coated wire or wood-wire combination traps and synthetic lines. In 2016, more than 1,200 permits were granted to trap lobster in Massachusetts waters. The greatest density of gear in Cape Cod Bay and the outer shore occurs August through October, when an average of 25,000 traps are set by approximately 75 permit holders. Storm action, propellers, interaction with mobile fishing gear, chafed groundlines and gear conflict are some of the ways traps can be lost, severing the buoy from the tether line, parting groundlines, or dragging gear into deeper water so that the buoy is submerged and untraceable. These lost traps may cause navigation hazards, damage the environment, or continue to fish for both target and non-target species.

This project facilitates a community approach to clearing the shore of derelict fishing gear. Fishermen, townspeople, artists, school groups, the Cape Cod National Seashore and Center for Coastal Studies staff, and others are invited to attend informational sessions at the Center’s Marine Lab to learn about the project and how to participate. Local lobstermen are aiding in efforts to remove gear from the seafloor and developing best management practices for handling waste aboard fishing vessels. By engaging the community and sharing tools for prevention, the Center for Coastal Studies is providing a proactive approach to reducing the amount of derelict fishing gear on Massachusetts’ coastline and waterways in the future.